We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more ›

Locking pliers, called vise grips by many users, tightly grip whatever you need held without you having to apply constant pressure. That frees up both your hands—a distinct advantage on jobs where you seem to need three hands, but don’t have a helper. To choose the best locking pliers for your application, consider jaw style, versatility and the release mechanism.

Top Pick

The less-rounded design makes gripping easier in somewhat tight places. Irwin Tools

Locking pliers come in multiple jaw configurations, and each has different applications. Curved jaws are best for tightening, clamping and turning round objects. Straight jaws are designed for more universal use. Round-nosed pliers are best for gripping an item that is easy to reach, while pointed-nose models enable you to get a good grip in smaller areas. Make sure whichever jaw style you choose has hardened steel teeth to hold up to the abuse you’ll likely dish out.

Great Value

For versatility, this set offers more sizes and configurations. Fstop Labs

Many manufacturers offer specialty locking pliers, ranging from long, curved jaws for extremely tight spaces, to models with built-in wire strippers, to models that are large, lockable C-clamps. Some even offer swivel tips, while others have multi-tools built into the grips. Many makers even sell sets of the tools, giving you the option of which size or shape pliers to use depending on your task. Sets give you more versatility.

Also Consider

Release this model by simply flipping the lever on the bottom grip. WORKPRO

If you’ve ever smashed your finger or pinched your hand releasing a pair of vise grips, you know why this factor made our list. With a rapid-release lever, you’ll be able to unclamp your pliers without fear of injury. Steer clear of pliers that are released by squeezing the grips further, as sometimes they are nearly impossible to break loose. A good, one-touch release lever is your best bet.